Avon Valley set to blaze in colour after State secures 2017 National Ballooning Championships


The 2015 National Ballooning Championships in Northam.
Avon Valley set to blaze in colour after State secures 2017 National Ballooning Championships
Avon Valley set to blaze in colour after State secures 2017 National Ballooning Championships
The 2015 National Ballooning Championships in Northam.

HOT air balloons will soar over the Avon Valley in a blaze of colour likely to attract thousands of visitors to the region in a major coup for state tourism.

Western Australia has landed the rights to host the 2017 National Ballooning Championships in Northam, one of Australia’s premier hot air ballooning destinations.

Premier and Tourism Minister Colin Barnett said Northam last hosted the highly successful championships in 2015, when 20 national and international competitors, as well as 11,000 spectators visited the region.

Northam again made international headlines last year as the departure point for Russian pilot Fedor Konyukhov’s record-breaking solo round-the-world balloon flight in 11 days.

“The Northam National Ballooning Championships will not only build on this reputation and media exposure, but is expected to bring thousands of visitors into the region and generate more than $1.8 million in visitor spend,” Mr Barnett said.

The Premier said WA tourism generated $9.6 billion in 2015-16 and included $4.5 billion in regional areas.

“The State Government has a strategy in place to increase this value to $12 billion across the State by 2020,” Mr Barnett said.

“Events such as this contribute to this goal by attracting visitors to regional areas.”

The ballooning championships in early September will be the most significant event on the Australian ballooning calendar.

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman said the event would contribute to the vibrancy of regional communities.

In 2015, the week-long event had a huge effect on regional tourism, with reports of booked-out accommodation in Northam and in the nearby towns of York and Toodyay, and restaurants, cafes and other tourism attractions in the region well patronised over the busy period.

Northam Aero Club will host the event for a second time, supported by the State Government’s regional tourism program, Royalties for Regions and the Shire of Northam.

Organising chairman Gren Putland said title-holders and other significant pilots and their support crews would traverse the globe to compete in the event.

“We’re expecting to attract high-profile people from Europe and the USA, along with challengers from Japan and China, and our local and national competitors,” he said.

The championship is about skill more than speed and will test pilot ability to navigate and manoeuvre at altitude across a series of challenges.

Attractions at the last event featured an aviation discovery centre for children, with model-making, hot air balloon flights, performances and exhibitions.

The Balloon Glow and Fiesta finale drew 6000 spectators to the small country town, about an hour’s drive from Midland.

Mr Putland said he hoped the event would leave a legacy for the Northam community.“It’s fantastic Northam will host the national competitions so soon after 2015, a decision borne by the fact that it’s the competitors who have chosen to return here,” he said.

The event will run from September 1 to 9 at Northam Airfield.